Stormers bounce back against Blues

2010-04-12 00:00

WHILE the luckless Cheetahs and the shell-shocked Lions continued to provide cannon fodder for their Super 14 opponents, the Stormers gained a highly significant win over the Blues in Auckland, reigniting their semi-final challenge.

The Cheetahs and the Lions now fill positions 13 and 14 on the log, while the Stormers bounced back from their upset loss to the previously bottom-placed Force last week, by beating the Blues 33-21 in Auckland.

The Sharks, after their weekend bye, remain 10th. Stormers flyhalf Peter Grant kicked seven goals from seven attempts for 18 points, but it was the quality of their rugby in the opening 30 minutes — when they ran to a 20-0 lead — which laid the platform for the win.

Bok lock Hennie Bekker, in the lineout and in midfield — although he is, at heart, a centre — was a massive presence, but, as coach Allister Coetzee said later, the influence of the team’s senior players was pivotal.

“Men like Schalk Burger and Andries Bekker had fantastic games, as did Tiaan Liebenberg, Bryan Habana and Jaque Fourie. Peter Grant dictated play and now has a 12 from 12 goal-kicking record on tour. That’s the senior group of players we needed to deliver, and they didn’t disappoint,” said Coetzee.

The unpredictable Blues lived up to their reputation of blowing either hot or cold. Certainly they never matched the intensity of the previous week, when they outmuscled the champion Bulls for a shock win, and they made far too many errors on the day.

They did improve in the second half, and briefly threatened, at 23-14 and 30-21, as they punished loose Stormers’ tactical kicking. But they were continually forced to chance the game, and spent far too much time trying to create openings in their own half.

The Stormers desperately needed the win. They are fourth on the log, but have a difficult closing five games against the Chiefs and Reds (both away), the Crusaders and the Bulls (both at Newlands) and the Sharks in Durban.

Blues captain Keven Mealamu praised the Stormers’ tackling. “The Stormers are the top defensive side in the competition, and they force you to take risks.”

The Brumbies dominated territory and possession and scored six second-half tries to thump the Cheetahs 61-15 in Canberra.

Despite having more than 80% of possession and the majority of territory in the first half, the Brumbies failed to take their chances, with poor execution letting them down, and they only scored their third try on half-time. But the second half was one-way traffic.

Adriaan Strauss, the Cheetahs’ stand-in captain, who scored one of their two tries, praised the home side. “We just defended the whole game. We can’t say much... just give credit to the Brumbies.”

The Queensland Reds made an early meal of the Lions at Ellis Park, scoring their fourth bonus point in the opening quarter. The Lions did fight back, conceding only two more tries and scoring four of their own for a bonus point, but they still lost 41-26.

The Lions, who face the Sharks in Johannesburg on Saturday, will take heart from their revival, which saw them close to 27-19 at one stage. If they improve their defence and sharpen their ball retention, they could still give the Sharks the runaround.

Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper again enjoyed himself hugely as he created numerous openings on the night.

In a torrid top-of-the-log contest in Christchurch, the Crusaders edged a tough Waratahs side 20-13. The defeat knocked the Waratahs off the top of the log, and the Bulls find themselves, once again, alone at the top.

“It was always going to be a tough match,” Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said. “I’m proud of the way the guys ground it out.”

Poor ball retention had cost his team, Waratahs captain Phil Waugh conceded.

The Force scored another minor upset, when they won away from home, as scrumhalf Justin Turner, centre Ryan Cross and wing Cameron Shepherd all scored late tries for a 41-27 victory over the Highlanders in Queenstown. All three tries came in the final eight minutes in what was a close game. Saturday’s scores and scorers: Highlanders 27 Force 41 Force — Tries: Cameron Shepherd (2), James O’Connor, Ryan Cross (2), Justin Turner; Conversions: O’Connor (4); Penalty: O’Connor. Highlanders — Tries: Chris King, Stephen Setephano, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Penalties: Matt Berquist (4). Blues 21 Stormers 33 Stormers — Tries: Jaque Fourie, Dewaldt Duvenage, Anton Van Zyl; Conversions: Peter Grant (3); Penalties: Grant (4). Blues — Tries: Serge Lilo, Luke McAlister, Joe Rokocoko; Conversions: Stephen Brett (3) Crusaders 20 Waratahs 13 C rusaders — Try: Kahn Fotuali’i. Penalties: Dan Carter (5). Waratahs — Try: Rob Horne. Conversion: Daniel Halangahu. Penalties: Halangahu, Berrick Barnes. Brumbies 61 Cheetahs 15 Brumbies — Tries: Ben Alexander (2), Stephen Hoiles, Patrick Phibbs, Tyrone Smith, Rocky Elsom, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua, Alfi Mafi; Conversions: Matt Giteau (6), Julian Huxley; (2). Cheetahs — Tries: Sarel Pretorius, Adriaan Strauss; Conversion: Riaan Viljoen. Penalty goal: Naas Olivier Lions 26 Reds 41 Lions — Tries: Michael Killian (2), Franco van der Merwe, Herkie Kruger; Conversions: Kruger (3). Reds — Rod Davies (2), Quade Cooper, Saila Faingaa, Peter Hynes, Ezra Taylor; Conversions: Quade Cooper (4). Penalties: Cooper. Played Friday: Chiefs 19 Bulls 33 Byes: Hurricanes and Sharks

 

This week’s fixtures (times SA): Friday: At Hamilton: Chiefs v Stormers 9.35 am At Canberra: Brumbies v Hurricanes 11.40 am Saturday: At Auckland: Blues v Force 7.30 amAt Christchurch: Crusaders v Cheetahs 9.35 amAt Brisbane: Reds v Bulls 11.40 amAt Johannesburg: Lions v Sharks 5.05 pmBye: Highlanders and Waratahs.

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